Tweed nurses call for more staff to help aged care residents
TWEED aged care nurses are crying out for help in the workplace, as nursing homes around the country continue to struggle with staffing numbers.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation is calling for the introduction of staff ratios, as chronic under-staffing has seen a 400 per cent increase in preventable deaths in aged care homes over the last 13 years.
Tweed nurse Elanor Bilbie said poor staffing numbers, where in some cases the nurse to patient ration was one-to-nine, was severely impacting patient care.
"As it stands, with one nurse to nine residents, it's completely unsafe and on some occasions, it can be one-to-23, depending on what shift you're on," she said. "(Patients are) not getting the care they need. We want to make it safe for all the nursing staff and all of the residents as well."
The ANMF national campaign calling for mandatory staffing rations in aged care facilities is gaining momentum, with thousands of nurses gathering around the country to protest unsafe work conditions.
The campaign is aimed at highlighting the vast difference in nursing requirements for infant care compared to aged care.
"The government has to acknowledge it needs to have mandatory ratios in aged care just like they have in child care," Tweed nurse Suzanne Wilson said.
"The Government's cuts to the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI), which now has more criteria in how to assess a resident and what their needs are, has impacted on staffing."
Ms Bilbie said the lack of legislation in the aged care sector meant the estimated $12.4 billion of funding provided to residential aged care in 2018 would not necessarily create better care for patients.
"If they don't get the funding from ACFI, we don't get the staffing," she said.
"It depends on how much care each residents needs. And the funding that the government now gives for training is not training them enough and they come in unprepared for what they're going to meet up with.
"It's hard for both the worker and the resident because then they're not going to get the right care."
ANMF spokesperson Wayne Baxter said the campaign, which highlighted the difference in care for an infant and an elderly person, would hopefully show people the staffing crisis could impact everyone.
"When (someone is) coming to the end of their life, there's no additional funding even though they require a higher level of care and amount of time spent with them and they're not receiving that." Mr Baxter said.
"What we do know is that residents are missing out on hours of care.
"We've tip-toed around this issue too lightly in the past and in our previous campaigns but this time the reality is that this is the reality of what's happening out there and we need to get that out there."
Ms Bilbie said it was important more staff were hired for all levels of care to ensure patients received the support needed.
"Some residents who can semi-care for themselves may not see a nurse for six hours and that's just entirely unfair," she said. "It can lead to isolation and a higher falls risk, just because they can do a few things doesn't mean they can't trip over. They could lay there for a few hours and no one will know. They're missing those nutritional gaps."
Ms Bilbie said something needed to be done now to protect patients and staff for the long haul.
"It's everybody's mum and dad and we're all heading there," she said.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation's national campaign is calling for more staff to be hired in aged care facilities. Join the march:
Where: Jack Evans Boat Harbour, Tweed Heads
When: 11am on Saturday, May 12